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Nick Cave, circa Birthday Party years

Originating in Australia, and largely contained there, "Swampies" were/are a "proto-Goth" subculture. According to natives of Oz, Swampies are either a) an early form of the Gothic subculture in Australia prior to the import of Goth from the UK, b) a distinct subculture that originated alongside Goth, or c) a term used by a very small minority of Sydney, NSW, goths to identify others as "baby bats" or "poseurs".

Swampies are described as looking like "more-disheveled early goth rockers" witb charity shop paisley shirts, skinny jeans, cowboy boots or Chuck Taylor sneakers, hastily backcombed hair, and minimal or very heavy black eyeliner. Loose black sundresses have been described as a common attire for female Swampies.

Swampie music shares more in common with certain strains of 1960s revival sounds, especially Rhythm and Blues, alternative country and cowpunk (which is distinct from psychobilly), avant-garde folk, and free jazz than most other early Gothic Rock (which borrows most-directly from glam and psychedelic music), or Deathrock (which initially evolved from Los Angeles' hardcore punk scene) and bands with the Swampie sound include The Birthday Party (who began as The Boys Next Door, and were basically a 60s and Power Pop cover band until the addition of Rowland S Howard), The Scientists (who began as a power pop band, and their early single, "Last Night", being a minor staple on Mod Revival compilations), These Immortal Souls, The Triffids, The Saints, Laughing Clowns, Crime and the City Solution, Los Angeles-based "spaghetti Western" New Wave /Gothic band Wall of Voodoo, and L.A.'s punk blues band (featuring future Sisters of Mercy member, Patricia Morrison) The Gun Club, and (in the late 1980s and early '90s) UK punk blues and punk folk musician, PJ Harvey. Other influential music inclues Lydia Lunch and other No Wave performers (James Chance, the Del-Byzanteens, etc...), The Velvet Underground, Lee Hazelwood, Frank Zappa, and Leonard Cohen.

Bands and musicians with a similar look and sound to, and /or strong influences in Australia's Swampies have sprung up sporadically since about 1999, starting with The White Stripes and singer/guitarist Jack White, from the States and Neils Children from the UK. The Gore Gore Girls, The Horrors, The Love-Me-Nots, and The Black Belles also are known for a dark sound taking a lead from 60s Rhythm and Blues. Amy Winehouse, known for a 60s-influenced Soul sound, big hair, both arms covered in tattoos, and a refusal to shy from dark, emotional themes, lyrically has (according to Raven Digitalis in his book Goth Craft) become well-regarded among some Goths attracted to a vintage style. This might suggest a deeper influence of Swampies, if not for the fact that some alt.gothic posters considered Swampies largely a remnant of Sad Old Australian Goths' memories of the 1980s by about 1996, but nonetheless, a tiny minority of Gothically-inclined sorts (no longer contained to Australia), have adopted a Swampie subculture identity, most prominent being Pagan and Transgender blogger, Ruadhán J McElroy. 

What's its connection to Goth?[]

A lot of goths and deathrockers love Nick Cave, the Gun Club, PJ Harvey, and other music arguably of the Swampie aural aesthetic, so much that many Goths outside Australia are completely unaware that in one part of the world, there are still people who regard such music as part of a completely different subculture.

Think Swampie might be your thing? []

  • You enjoy a dark take on a Mid-Twentieth century aesthetic.
  • You like dark music of a punk origin heavily steeped in Rhythm and Blues, free jazz, avantgarde folk, and alternative country influences.
  • You buy a lot of dark clothes at charity shops, rummage sales, and vintage dealers.
  • You like big hair and sparse make-up.
  • You consider yourself "dressed down" compared to most goths, but "dressed up" when compared to others into Mod/Garage revival, punk blues, and punk folk music.
  • You're utterly fascinated with the darker aspects of the cultures of swamplands, deserts, the mountains, and the Australian outback.

But remember, there are no hard and fast rules, and you can mix and match, consider yourself both Goth and Swampie, or either, or neither.

Types of Goth
Trad Goth Romantic Goth ~ Cyber Goth ~ Fetish Goth ~ Victorian Goth ~ Vampire Goth ~ Bubble Goth ~ J-Goth ~ Medival Goth ~ Hippy Goth ~ Tribal Goth ~ Fairy Goth ~ Steampunk ~ Emo Goth ~ Cabaret Goth ~ Gothabilly ~ Geek Goth ~ Corp Goth ~ Baby Bat
Other Goth Cousins
Punk ~ Rivithead ~ Metalhead ~ Deathrocker ~ Emo